GoAbroad Interview

Aurelie Chouaf - Co-Founder & Director

Aurelie Chouaf - Co-Founder & Director

Aurelie graduated from Montpellier Business School with a degree in international business. As part of her studies she interned in three different companies, based in three different cities, for 22 months in total. After living abroad for four years, Aurelie co-founded Absolute Internship, and has since worked in Hong Kong overseeing operations for all programs. With the ability to speak in multiple different languages, Aurelie loves to travel and share experiences with locals wherever life brings her.

How did the idea for Absolute Internship come to life?

The idea originated while I was interning in Shanghai and co-founder Fredrik van Huynh was studying there (2007). I started to help few a friends to get internships in Shanghai while I was there; that was really just a service to friends. Both Fredrik and I moved on with our work, studies, and lives, until one day in December 2009 Fredrik asked me if I wanted to join him to build a global internship program organization that would start with our personal network and connections. I am quite adventurous (and was even more back in 2009), so I jumped at the opportunity and moved to Hong Kong.

During a Career Speaker event in Shanghai, Summer 2012

During a Career Speaker event in Shanghai, Summer 2012

You worked in various business roles, from energy to communications, prior to founding Absolute Internships. How did your professional experience impact the development of the organization?

I worked for startups and also Fortune 500s, so I believe I developed different kinds of transferrable skills that I was then able to use when working on our organization, strategy, and recruitment. Working in a startup for a year in Paris really taught me how to multitask and take on many projects at the same time, but also to delegate and prioritize. I also believe that my experience in various industries allows me to understand students expectations for their internships based on their field of interest.

What makes Absolute Internship unique?

Definitely our approach and interactions with students, universities, parents, and companies. We aim to be as personable as possible with each person and institution, and this is what makes us stand out. In an industry where a big majority of our peers have an academic background, we believe our business background helps us be creative, well prepared, and also act very fast which is what students are expecting nowadays.

With Program Alumni SOAS, University of London, September 2013

With Program Alumni SOAS, University of London, September 2013

You earned your degree in business administration at Montpellier Business School, during which you spent time studying both in Melbourne and Sydney. How have your international education experiences shaped your career and perspective of the world?

I am very thankful for all the opportunities I was given so far. Being able to travel the world and learn about different customs and business cultures definitely allows me to be more professional, patient, and understanding in my work. Studying and interning overseas really defined my career and led me to where I am today. Without these experiences, I would see the world differently. I now perceive the world as our biggest resource in life and business.

My opportunities to develop, make extraordinary connections, and be exposed to amazing experiences is definitely a result of my choice to pursue an international education.

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

I am an early bird, so most days I arrive in the office between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 am, and I enjoy taking time to plan my day while the team has not yet arrived. At Absolute, I mainly work on operations, making sure our programs are up to standards. This means being responsible for students housing, event planning, visas or work passes, program recruitment, program inventory, etc. I have my own team in operations and compliance and I have to work closely with them in Singapore and Shanghai. Each day is different from the previous one but I always have communications with students and our local teams. I also work closely with my colleagues based in London, so my afternoons are often filled with conference calls with them. I normally leave the office around 6:30 p.m. or 7:00 p.m.

With a program participant in Shanghai, July 2015

With a program participant in Shanghai, July 2015

Why do you think internships in Asia are valuable in the world today?

Based on my experience, an internship in Asia proves to be very valuable mainly because of the nature of the internship. Indeed, responsibilities given throughout an eight week internship in Singapore are more significant than throughout an eight week internship in Paris. The reason is that employers in Asia understand that hosting an intern is a win-win situation, where the student learns from professionals in his or her field of study while the company gets brilliant and hungry interns for a short, but productive, period. This is a concept that many Asian companies understand and value.

Business hubs in Asia offer very high paced environments, which allows interns to be challenged early on and then bring back home this high level of efficiency.

Your language skills span English, Spanish, French, and Swedish. Does Absolute Internship promote language learning among participants?

We do promote language learning and we do believe it is a very important aspect of life abroad. You can’t just think that English will be just fine everywhere. Knowing the local language allows you to live differently and to have an in depth understand of your host culture. Learning a language is a priority that you must give yourself when living overseas.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The multitasking, the communication with students, my team, but also the challenges. It wouldn’t be as exciting to wake up everyday if there were no challenges to overcome on that day! I also love the traveling aspect of my work.

International Careers Day in Milan, Italy

At an International Careers Day in Milan, Italy, April 2014

Are there any new additions to Absolute Internship that we can look forward to in 2016?

We have just launched a brand new Madrid program, at the demand of our partner universities. We are very excited about that program as it one of the most traditional locations for study abroad and we hope it will become a major destination for internships!